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Watch Out For That Truck

A gruesome pedestrian-vehicle crash that involved a large truck killed an Ormond Beach woman.

The wreck took place close to the Indrio Road exit on the southbound side of Interstate 95. Florida Highway Patrol officer state that 19-year-old Maria Ramirez struck a light pole and exited her vehicle to investigate the damage. While she did so, 58-year-old Vincent Sorrentino, of Palm Coast, hit her with his tractor trailer. Ms. Ramirez was declared dead at the scene; Mr. Sorrentino was not hurt.

No charges have been filed yet, but the case remains under investigation.

First Party Liability in Truck Crashes

Almost 4,000 people die in large truck crashes each year, and the fatality rate has remained relatively consistent over the last 40 years. In other words, at least by this measurement, large trucks are just as dangerous today as they were in 1975. Also, despite extensive regulation and technological improvements, many drivers still have problems controlling these massive vehicles at freeway speeds.

Because they are so big, truck collisions often cause catastrophic injuries to both motorists and pedestrians, including:

  • Serious Burns: Diesel fuel burns at a different temperature from gasoline, which explains the enormous fireballs that often accompany these collisions.
  • Shattered Bones: A large truck’s weight often crushes bones almost beyond the point of mending, even with aggressive and immediate treatment.
  • Wrongful Death: Many times, these injuries are so severe that the victims do not survive these crashes.

Damages in a large truck wreck case include compensation for both economic losses, like physical rehabilitation expenses, and noneconomic losses, like loss of enjoyment in life.

Third Party Liability in Truck Crashes

In most of these cases, the shipping company is also responsible for at least part of the victim’s damages. Third party liability theories are especially important in truck crash cases, because since the injuries are so severe, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) may have insufficient insurance coverage.

Respondeat superior (Latin for “let the master answer”) typically applies in these cases. There are basically two elements:

  • An employee, who is acting
  • Within the course and scope of employment.

Both these elements are broadly defined. To determine who is an employee, most courts look to the degree of control the shipping company had over the truck driver. In nearly all cases, the shipping company sets the pickup and delivery points, establishes the timetable, makes payment, and even lays out the route. So, even drivers who are independent contractors for tax purposes are typically employees for negligence purposes.

As for course and scope, an employee who is doing anything that benefits the employer is normally acting within the course and scope of employment. It doesn’t matter whether the tortfeasor is hauling a full load, empty load, or something in between.

In the unlikely event that respondeat superior is inapplicable, negligent hiring is usually available. This theory often applies if the tortfeasor was not an employee or was acting outside the scope of employment. Essentially, if there was a special relationship between the employer and the tortfeasor and the employer knew that the tortfeasor may be in a position to cause injury, the employer is liable for damages.

Rely on Experienced Attorneys

For prompt assistance with a truck crash or other negligence claim, contact an experienced Port St. Lucie personal injury lawyer from Eighmie Law Firm, PA. We routinely handle matters in St. Lucie County and all along the Treasure Coast.

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